06/11/2008 8:35 PM ET
Gamel to stay at Double-A Huntsville
Brewers' third-base prospect tearing up Southern League
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- The Brewers are content to let third-base prospect Mat Gamel rake in the Double-A Southern League.
Gamel was named the league's Topps Player of the Month in a vote by Southern League managers after he batted .387 in May with 28 RBIs. Hitting at the heart of one of Minor League Baseball's best offensive teams, Gamel entered Wednesday batting a league-best .376 with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs.
Triple-A Nashville lost its third baseman late last month when the Brewers promoted Russell Branyan to the Major Leagues. Nonetheless, Gamel is staying put.
"We discussed that at the Draft [last week], and the feeling is that we should let him stay at Double-A," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "Double-A, especially the Southern League, is a very solid pitching league, and we're probably going to leave him there and let him have an outstanding year there -- let him dominate."
The Brewers have taken this tack before. Corey Hart, Milwaukee's current right fielder, spent all of 2003 at Huntsville, leading the league with 149 hits, 40 doubles and 94 RBIs, and winning Southern League MVP honors.
"The Southern League is a very good development league," Ash said. "In our opinion, there's not a whole lot to gain by moving [Gamel] to Triple-A at this point."
Leaving him at Huntsville extends Gamel's defensive work with Stars manager Don Money, a former Brewers third baseman and a four-time Major League All-Star. Money set a Major League record in 1977 with 261 straight errorless chances at third base, and he still holds a Major League mark with 88 consecutive errorless games at that position, a record he set in the 1973-74 seasons.
Gamel, 22, remains a defensive work in progress. He was charged with 15 errors in his first 64 games this season, an improvement from 2007 at Class A Brevard County, where he committed 53 errors in 128 games. Most of those mistakes were throwing errors.
"That's a big factor," Ash said of the Gamel-Money partnership. "He's shown improvement there, and Garth Iorg, our roving infield instructor, has seen him there and told me there is no doubt in his mind that [Gamel] will play third base in the big leagues.
"That was one of the goals we laid out in the beginning of the year -- that by the end of the season, we had to firm in our minds whether he could or couldn't. It's certainly leaning to the view that he can play third base and he can play it well."
The Brewers selected Gamel, a left-handed hitter, in the fourth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He went three rounds after the Brewers used the fifth overall pick on Ryan Braun, another third baseman with an advanced bat and raw glove.
Gamels' Huntsville club entered play Wednesday with a one-game lead in the Southern League North Division with five games remaining in the first half. The Stars batted .306 in May to become the Southern League's first team to collectively hit over .300 for a full calendar month since June 2005.
Gamel and 2007 first-round Draft pick Matt LaPorta have gotten most of the attention. LaPorta was tops in the Southern League with 18 home runs through Tuesday, followed by Gamel's 14. Gamel leads the league in RBIs, with LaPorta five behind at 54.
Huntsville players owned the league's top four batting averages, with Gamel leading the way and followed by catcher Angel Salome (.372), center fielder Michael Brantley (.337) and shortstop Alcides Escobar (.333). The team also owned four of the top six spots in terms of OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), with Gamel (1.097) again leading the league, followed by LaPorta (third, 1.028), Salome (fourth, 1.000) and first baseman Chris Errecart (sixth, .888).
"There's some guys that are having very good years that aren't getting any notoriety whatsoever because they pale in comparison to some of their teammates," Ash said, who named second baseman Michael Bell and Brantley as examples.
With Gamel staying put and Branyan in the big leagues, the Triple-A Nashville Sounds will continue to play musical third basemen. Adam Heether, Brad Nelson, Eric Munson and Chris Woodward all have seen action there this season.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.